x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Time Frame: Muhammad Ali tours Abu Dhabi

The boxing legend inspected hydroponically grown cucumbers on Saadiyat Island during a visit to Abu Dhabi in March 1974.

Courtesy of Ali Kaddas Al Rumaithi
Courtesy of Ali Kaddas Al Rumaithi

In October 1974, the "Rumble in the Jungle" saw Muhammad Ali reclaim the world heavyweight boxing title in sensational style by knocking out George Forman in Kinshasa, Zaire.

Six months earlier he was seen inspecting cucumbers on Saadiyat Island. Perhaps a diet of locally produced vegetables helped prepare the champion for one of the greatest fights in history?

In any event, Ali paid a visit to Abu Dhabi in March 1974, where he was received by Sheikh Zayed and given a guided tour of a new project using hydroponics - a method of growing plants in water, not soil - to produce home-grown fruit and vegetables.

The project was run in collaboration with the University of Arizona and several Emiratis were sent to train in the US. Among them was Abdullah Kaddas Al Rumaithi, whose family provided this image. Al Rumaithi can be seen to the right of the boxer, sporting a natty hat he presumably acquired on his travels.

In 1974, Ali was nearing the end of his best years as a boxer. He fought Joe Frazier for the third time the following year but lost to Leon Spinks in 1976 and retired three years later. However, his spiritual journey was just beginning. He had already changed his name from Cassius Clay and the year after this photograph was taken he finally converted to Sunni Islam.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae